THOUSANDS of drivers have called on Tyne Tunnel bosses to end the "sharp practice" of handing out £60 fines after major changes were introduced several weeks ago.

Those in charge of the tunnels have again faced backlash over the time given to pay the £1.90 toll online after barriers were removed and the route went cashless.

Read more: Anger over lack of independent appeals process after drivers fined £60 at Tyne Tunnel

Two online petitions accusing tunnel bosses of causing stress and "reputational damage" to the North East have so far attracted more than 3,000 signatures.

UPDATE: Man's petition on Tyne Tunnel fines gets 4,000 signatures in the space of 24 hours

TT2, which operates the tunnels on behalf of the North East Combined Authority, has continued to defend its new cashless system, saying it faces costs to recover tolls that are unpaid.

The Northern Echo: The toll booths have been removed Picture: GOOGLEThe toll booths have been removed Picture: GOOGLE

But speaking to The Northern Echo, campaigner Mark Birkett slammed the time given to pay - currently midnight the day after your journey - as "ridiculously unfair" and hailed the fining of drivers through an "absurd" system as "sharp practice."

In a petition set up by Mr Birkett, he claimed the payment window is causing drivers who have full intentions to pay "unnecessary distress" and urged the Government to intervene.

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Drivers who do not pay their toll by midnight the next day are sent an 'Unpaid Toll Charge Notice' of £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.

Those who fail to pay can then potentially face debt recovery action from TT2 with costs spiralling into the hundreds.

Reports published last week revealed fines totalling £507,000 were handed out to drivers in November - the equivalent to hundreds being caught each day.

They also revealed that about 43 percent of appeals lodged in November against TT2 were upheld in favour of the driver.

The Northern Echo:

Another petition, set up by Gary Spedding, called on tunnel bosses to implement a five working day timeframe - and a more "ethical" approach instead. 

In his petition, which has seen almost 2,000 signatures in a matter of days, he said: "The number of errors with the new system, coupled with the massive increase in the number of people receiving fines, is simply unacceptable.

"Countless individuals have come forward to relay the severe distress and financial hardship caused by the penalty fines being issued by TT2 Limited."

Setting out a solution, he also called on tunnel bosses to consider cancelling all unpaid toll charges issued in the last six months and reduce the initial fine.

He said: "For those who miss their deadline to pay should receive an initial fine of no more than £20, which should be reduced to £5 if paid within 14 days of the date the fine was generated.

"These amounts are more ethical and affordable to the average user of the Tyne Tunnel - many of whom come from working class backgrounds or may be suffering from hardship due to the current economic climate."

The Northern Echo:

Last month, drivers in County Durham and Darlington hit back after receiving fines for journeys made after the new cashless system was brought in.

Read more: Drivers' nightmare as £1.90 tolls turn into £60 fines under new Tyne Tunnel system

One driver ended up with £60 worth of fines for a return toll worth £3.80 as they claimed the system made it "incredibly easy" to forget to pay as no paper slips are given. 

At the time, he said: "Why can't they just send out a reminder, then you get a fair amount of time to pay, that makes more sense to me."

A poll ran by The Northern Echo revealed a staggering 77 percent of respondents believed bosses should issue reminders to first-time offenders to be more "fair." 

What Tyne Tunnel bosses have to say

Responding to the fresh concerns last night, TT2 defended the current system and said that the vast majority of journeys were being made without problem.

A spokesman said: “Changing a tolling-system that has been in operation for decades, will naturally take customers some time to get used to – particularly if they are learning a new way to pay.

"While we recognise there was some inevitable confusion at the outset we are working with customers to help them through this transition.

“The majority of motorists have adapted well to the new system, which is already proving to be a faster, smoother way to travel through the Tyne Tunnels.

"More than 94 percent of customers made compliant journeys within the first month, and we expect this to continue rising as more people get used to the new system.

“Income raised via fines, or UTCNs, represented just 20 percent of toll revenues in the month. The level of charges is defined in the Byelaws and was not set by TT2.  

"For every customer that doesn’t pay their toll, there are costs to recover that toll. The charge covers all additional costs associated with toll recovery and ensures that the customers who do pay their toll are not disadvantaged.

“We anticipated an initial spike in UTCNs and so in agreement with Transport North East we have implemented some transitional rules as people got used to new ways of paying. This has the benefit of allowing us to uphold more appeals and reflects on TT2’s commitment to working with our customers.

“TT2 is obliged to reduce the number of UTCNs, as we will be penalised and face a fine from the tunnel owners, TNE in the future if we fail to do so.

“In terms of the payment terms, drivers have until midnight the day after their journey to pay for their trip, which is the same as all open road tolling systems in the UK.

"This timeframe is intended to encourage people to pay quickly after their journey before they forget. Research has shown that a longer timeframe to pay increases that risk that people forget as payment is a lower priority.

“With regards to signage – we have installed numerous temporary signs while roadworks are underway at both the north and south bound entrances.

"They make clear that a toll is payable, how much it will be, when it needs to be paid by, how to make payment (cash, phone or online) and the consequences if payment is not made.

"We point all customers to our website where we have a whole section on ‘using the tunnels’ and encourage them to take up the free pre-paid account which entitles them to ten percent off every journey no matter how infrequently used.”


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